The Book of Women's Rights.




English translation copyrighted 2nd April 2023.






Part A.


THE AUTHOR. The legal identity is founded on the identity of species, and the woman being of the same species as the man, what should she be in front of civil dignity, in the employment of her activity and the Marriage?

THE YOUNG LADY. The equal of man.

THE AUTHOR. How will she be the equal of man in civil dignity?

THE YOUNG LADY. When she is a member of the family council, she will have a place on the jury and near any civil functionary; will be a member of the councils of Prud'hommes, commercial courts; when she will be a witness in all cases where the testimony of the man is required.

THE AUTHOR. Why must the testimony of the woman be admitted in all cases where that of the man is required?

THE YOUNG LADY. Because the woman is as believable as the man; she is, like him, a civil person.

THE AUTHOR. Why must she be a member, like a man, of the family council?

THE YOUNG LADY. Because an aunt, a relative, or a friend has as much interest in the things that happen there as an uncle, a relative, or a friend;

Because the family is made up of two sexes and not one.

THE AUTHOR. Why should women have their place on the jury?

THE YOUNG LADY. Because the Code declares her the equal of man before guilt, misdemeanor, crime, and punishment, she is, by this fact, declared to understand, like man, the evil in others;

Because the jury is a guarantee for the culprit, the culprit must have a similar one;

Because, if the criminal is better understood by men, the criminal will be better understood by women;

Because the whole Society is offended by the crime, it is necessary that this Society, composed of two sexes, be represented by both to judge and condemn it.

Because finally, as far as the appreciation of the moral sense is concerned, the feminine element is more necessary since men claim that our sex, in general, is more moral and more merciful than theirs.

THE AUTHOR. Why should women have their place among civil servants?

THE YOUNG LADY. Because the Society, represented by these functionaries, is composed of both sexes;

Because, in several civil functions, even today, there is a more special department for women;

Because, in the act of celebration of Marriage, for example, if the woman does not appear as a magistrate, not only is the Society not sufficiently represented, but the wife can consider herself delivered to the power of a man by all the men of the country.

THE AUTHOR. Why should women have their place in labor courts and commercial courts?

THE YOUNG LADY. Because it is half in industrial production;

Because she is half in business;

Because she understands as well as the man, if not better, in transactions and contracts;

Because, in any question of interest, she must represent herself.

THE AUTHOR. How will the woman be the equal of a man in the use of her activity and of her other faculties?

THE YOUNG LADY. When there will be for her colleges, academies, and special schools, and when all careers will be accessible to her?

THE AUTHOR. Why should women receive the same national education as men?



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THE YOUNG LADY. Because they exert an immense influence on the ideas, feelings, and behavior of the men, and it is of the social interest that this influence is salutary;

Because it is in everyone's interest to enlarge the views and elevate the feelings of women so that they use their natural ascendancy for the benefit of Progress, truth, good, of moral beauty;

Because the woman has the right, like the man, to cultivate her intelligence, and to acquire the knowledge that the State gives;

Because finally, paying its share of the expenses of the national education, it is a theft that one makes to him, that prohibits him to take part in it.

THE AUTHOR. Why should women be admitted to academies and professional schools?

THE YOUNG LADY. Because the Society, having no right to deny any aptitude in any of its members, consequently has no right to prevent him who claims to possess them from cultivating them, nor to close to him the treasures of science and practice. available to it;

Because there are women-born chemists, doctors, mathematicians, etc.; and these women have the right to find in social institutions the same resources as men for the cultivation of their aptitudes;

Because there are professions exercised by women which need teachings that are forbidden to them.

THE AUTHOR. Why should all careers be accessible to women?

THE YOUNG LADY. Because the woman is a free creature, whose vocation we have no right to contest or hinder;

Because she will not enter more than the man in the careers which his temperament, his lack of aptitude and time forbid him; that it is therefore just as useless to forbid them to him as one does to certain men.

THE AUTHOR. You do not even prohibit careers where strength is needed, where one exposes oneself to perils?

THE YOUNG LADY. Women are not forbidden to be carpenters or roofers, and they are not, because their nature is against it; it is precisely because nature opposes it that I would find the Company unreasonable to interfere. What is impossible, there is no need to prohibit it and, if what has been declared impossible, is done, it is because it was possible: yet the Society does not have the right to deny the possibility to any of its members; it even seemed eccentric to him, when it was a question of vocation.

THE AUTHOR. Let each fulfill his private function at his own risk and peril: that is good, but aren't there certain public functions that are not suitable for women?

THE YOUNG LADY. No one knows since they are not developed to fulfill them; and, were it so, the prohibition would be useless: the competition would do justice to ill-founded claims.

THE AUTHOR. How will the woman be equal to the man in marriage?

THE YOUNG LADY. When the person of the spouses will not be bound by the marriage; when the commitments will be reciprocal and the woman will not be treated as a minor and absorbed by the man. And it should be like this:

Because it is not lawful to alienate one's personality; such alienation is immoral and void of itself;

Because the woman, a distinct individual, cannot be seriously absorbed by the man, and that law is absurd when it rests on fiction and supposes an impossible thing;

Because finally the woman, having to be the equal of the man in front of Society, cannot, under any pretext, lose this equality as a consequence of a more intimate association with him.

THE AUTHOR. There are two questions in Marriage, besides that of the person; it is that of goods and children. Don't you think that the married woman should be like an adult girl, mistress of her property, free to exercise any profession that suits her, mistress to sell, to buy, to give, to receive, to plead?

THE YOUNG LADY. The married man has all these rights, it is evident that the married woman must possess them under the law of equality. Don't you agree?

THE AUTHOR. In any association, one engages a part of freedom on certain agreed points. Now the spouses are partners, therefore they cannot be as completely free as strangers with regard to each other: only it is necessary, let us repeat, that the situation be the same and the reciprocal commitments: If the wife does not can neither sell, nor alienate, nor give, nor receive, nor stand in judgment without the consent of the husband, it is not lawful for the husband to do these things without the consent of his wife; if the wife is not permitted to practice a profession without the husband's consent, the husband is not permitted to practice one without the wife's consent; if the wife cannot commit the community without the husband's mandate, the husband cannot commit her without the wife's mandate. I go further, I would not willingly admit that a woman, before twenty-five years of age, gives her husband the authorization to alienate anything that belongs to one of the two: the husband has too much influence over her to be truly free before that age.

THE YOUNG LADY. But if one of the two opposes by caprice, or by bad motives, the other does a suitable and advantageous thing?

THE AUTHOR. In disputes that arise between partners, arbitrators are often chosen: the general arbiter between the spouses is the Company, represented by the judiciary; but we believe that it would be good to establish between them a perpetual arbiter who would have a first degree of jurisdiction: this would be the family council, organized quite differently than it is today. Before this intimate tribunal, better able to assess than any other, the spouses would bring, not only the disputes arising between them concerning questions of interest, but those which would relate to the education, profession, and marriage of the children. This tribunal would rule in the first instance, and many scandals would be avoided by its decisions, which, moreover, could always be appealed to the social tribunal.

I have no need to add that the rights of the father and the mother over the children are absolutely equal; that if the right of one of the two could be disputed, it would not be that of the mother who alone can say I know, I am certain that these children are mine.

THE YOUNG LADY. Indeed, it is revolting that the plenitude of the law is found on the side of simple legal presumption, of the act of faith, of uncertainty.

Considering marriage as an association of equals, wouldn't you think it would be useful to mark this equality and the distinction of personalities in the name borne by the spouses and their children?

THE AUTHOR. Certainly, Madam; on the day of the marriage, each of the spouses would add to his name that of his spouse: this is already done in certain cantons of Switzerland and even in France with a few individuals.

Children, until their marriage, should bear the double name of their parents; on that day the daughters would keep only the name of the mother and the sons that of the father; or else if we want to introduce into this question the regime of freedom, it would be ruled that at the age of majority, the child would himself choose which of the two names he wants to bear and transmit.


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The Sixth Chapter continued>






English translation copyrighted 2nd April 2023.


The Book of Women’s Rights. A Summary Of Proposed Reforms. 6. 1860.